Rather than take a week off after dropping last week's massive Fall Dining Guide, Tom Sietsema takes the time this week to explain why a few particular restaurants did not make the list of places at which the critic would like to be a regular.
Estadio: Sietsema marks the Logan Circle tapas restaurant down to 2 stars from the 2.5 it earned this time last year and explains what he didn't like: "The well-seasoned shrimp are also cooked to rubber, and if you order a hamburger at brunch, expect to be disappointed by a dry patty. Too much of what was over-the-top good a year ago now tastes warmed-over."
Four Sisters: Sietsema gave this Vietnamese restaurant 2.5 stars in his 2009 dining guide, but this year it lost a whole star: "I'm wistful for the good old days here. Shrimp toast bundled with herbs in a lettuce wrap is hype-worthy, but much of the rest of the meal feels routine. Shredded papaya salad with sliced shrimp and julienned pork is mushier than I remember; curried scored squid gives my jaw a workout; and grilled beef on a bed of vermicelli smacks of lighter fluid rather than smoke from the grill."
Hank's Oyster Bar: Jamie Leeds' newly renovated and expanded restaurant in Dupont Circle goes down to 1.5 stars: "The kitchen hasn't kept up with the enhancements. Hank’s small pretzels with tangy beer dip are good company for a cocktail, but too much of the rest of the menu suggests a steamboat galley that can't match its cruiser yacht ambitions." [WaPo]
Rina Rapuano visited Fettoush for the October issue of the Washingtonian. Despite "soggy and cloying" baklava, the critic has nice words for dishes like the vegetarian combo and the shish tawook, but most of all the service: "Big smiles from the waiters—along with the complimentary coffee, pastry, and sweetened mint tea that sometimes arrive at the table unordered—make diners feel welcome." [Washingtonian]
The Washington Post's Lavanya Ramanathan admits that the cafeteria-style Everlasting Life Cafe is somewhat lacking in ambiance, but is otherwise "wickedly pleasurable" for those on restrictive diets: "A vegan friend and I had that epiphany at Everlasting Life as we stared down a platter loaded with creamy macaroni and 'cheese,' sweet kale salad and a chicken-fried tofu sandwich slathered in mustard and barbecue sauce, all of it prepared, like everything else here, sans meat and dairy." [WaPo]
Catherine Zuckerman checks out Bold Bite — a small hot dog restaurant in Bethesda — for the Washington Post. She likes the bratwurst and the chorizo and says that the merguez is "lacking in lamb flavor, but its tasty accessories make it hard to fault." [WaPo]
Todd Kliman added Alexandria's Vermilion to the list of restaurants where he is eating these days, explaining that "these days there's a newfound coherence in his plates, a clarity that brings even his heartiest, most soulful plates into tight focus. The desserts, with Tiffany MacIsaac in the fold, have never been better." [Washingtonian]
Chris Shott tries the "Red Skin Pie" at newly opened Mellow Mushroom and explains that it's basically a stuffed potato on top of a pizza. One of his colleagues, however, compares it to a breakfast pizza. [WCP]
THE BLOGS: DC-Wrapped Dates says that the sandwiches at Fast Gourmet are delicious; New Columbia Heights finds the staff at the new Panera Bread to be quite friendly and notes that if all chain restaurants are like this then he won't be so worried about them invading the neighborhood.
Estadio [Photo: Chris Z./Yelp]